WASHINGTON — A fossil found in Israel indicates modern humans may have left Africa as much as 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Scientists say that an ancient upper jawbone and associated stone tools could also mean that our species appeared far earlier than fossils now show.

Researchers calculate that the jawbone, complete with several well-preserved teeth, was between 177,000 and 194,000 years old. Previously, the oldest fossils of modern humans found outside of Africa were somewhere from 90,000 to 120,000 years old, also in Israel.

The study suggests modern humans could have left Africa 220,000 years ago, with some of the authors saying maybe even earlier.

The jaw was found in the collapsed Misliya cave on the western slope of Mount Carmel.

The study is in Thursday’s Science.

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